Every month, Mark Lazarowicz, MP produces a round-up of what he's been doing in Westminster, Edinburgh and beyond. We reproduce his latest communication below, in full, without comment.
PARLIAMENTARY AND CONSTITUENCY NEWS from MARK LAZAROWICZ MP
Not surprisingly, Parliament has been dominated over the last couple of weeks by the ‘hacking’ scandal and all that has followed from it. In my view, it was right for Parliament to focus on the issues in the way that it has – they have thrown up questions which are fundamental to the health of our democracy.
However, there are of course other important issues at home and abroad, and I have been involved in quite a few over the last few weeks.
Drought in the Horn of Africa
In my role as a Shadow Minister for International Development, I have been concerned with a wide range of issues. The situation in the Horn of Africa has shocked the world, and I have discussed what needs to be done now and in the future in meetings with major NGOs such as Islamic Relief and CAFOD.
Over 11million people are in desperate need of food and water. In previous emergencies such as the earthquake in Haiti, people in Edinburgh have responded generously and NGOs based here have taken part in relief efforts.
You can donate here to the Disasters Emergency Committee which is coordinating the appeal.
The new state of South Sudan came into being on 9th July and I was one of the sponsors of a Parliamentary Motion celebrating the birth of the world’s newest state. However, it also looks forward to the immense challenges the country will face in meeting the needs of its people. The Motion calls on the UK Government and the international community to do all it can to support South Sudan and to mediate between the North and South on unresolved issues between them.
You can read the Motion here. I also asked the Minister responsible a question on South Sudan which you can find here.
Mining for mobiles – exploitation in the coltan industry in Eastern Congo
I was invited to a meeting with Afro-Caribbean church leaders to discuss exploitation of workers in coltan mines in Eastern Congo. Coltan is a metallic ore used as a component in mobile phones. For most people they are an essential part of modern life but they couldn’t exist without coltan which is actually mined by hand in the Eastern Congo. The mineral wealth fuels conflict between rival warlords but the workers, often children, see little of the proceeds of the industry.
Fair play needed for Fairtrade in Palestine
A local dimension to international issues was raised with me this month. The Hadeel fair trade shop in St Andrew's and St. George's West Church, Shandwick Place, imports a range of goods from small producers in the West Bank and Gaza which many experts see as the way to boost economic development in less developed countries.
However, it has recently had real problems in importing the products and actually paying the producers which include small women’s cooperatives and centres for those with special needs.
I raised the issue in the House of Commons as you can see here.
HIV/AIDS: Waverley Care
There was a link between local, national and international issues as well when I took part in a meeting on HIV/AIDS in St John’s Church, Princes Street, which was organised by Waverley Care – a pioneering local organisation offering care and support to people in the community who are HIV positive.
I first became involved with the issue as a Councillor in Wester Hailes in the early 1980s when the impact of AIDS first began to be felt. Now as an Opposition Spokesman on International Development I see the devastating way that HIV/AIDS continues to affect developing countries and I am all the more determined that the UK should continue to provide a strong lead so that progress made in the last decade is maintained and the continuing challenges that we face are met.
You can read more about this here.
I spoke in an urgent debate on the crisis affecting care homes owned by Southern Cross which has now gone into administration. There is a Southern Cross home here in Leith. My question focused obviously on Scotland but I am very concerned more broadly about the way that the irresponsibility of those who put profit before all else has put elderly people and their families in fear of whether their future care will be secure.
The company has given assurances of a smooth transition and I very much hope that is the case but it is inevitable those directly affected will be concerned by the situation. You can read my question in the debate here.
Transport – making sure the voices of disabled people continue to be heard
Following contact from local organisations, I spoke in a debate on the Public Bodies Bill about the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) which makes disabled people’s voices heard on transport issues.
Headlines like ‘Bonfire of the quangos’ make good copy but ignore the often important work that public bodies like this do.
I hope Government will think again. You can find more on this issue here <http://www.marklazarowicz.org.uk/transport--making-sure-the-voices-of-d…; .
Affordable housing in Leith
I joined with colleagues, Malcolm Chisholm MSP and Councillor Gordon Munro, in backing a plan to build new affordable housing in Leith on the current site of Fort House and also using the gap site on Great Junction Street.
The debate over cuts to housing benefit highlighted the need for more affordable housing. This plan would be a small but significant step to meeting local housing needs and would also provide vital jobs and apprenticeships at a time when unemployment amongst young people in particular is a real problem.
To go ahead the plan needs funding from the Scottish Government and I hope it will respond positively. You can read more on this here.
In a backbench debate at Westminster, I raised the concern that is felt in universities and colleges here in Edinburgh over the UK Government’s changes to the rules on student visas.
Clearly any abuses should be firmly dealt with but we shouldn’t forget the contribution that international students make to Edinburgh’s social and cultural life whilst their fees are also extremely important to the income of Scottish universities and colleges at a time when public funding is being cut.
You can find more on this here.
I have been campaigning over a long period for Government to support investment in green industry. One side of this is the Green Investment Bank which I have been arguing should be based in Edinburgh but the other is training or retraining to ensure that people have the skills to take up new opportunities.
I raised this with the Business Secretary recently as you can see here.
Funding for community groups
You can find details on my website here of two schemes offering funding opportunities which could be of interest to community groups and charities locally.